Works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman are part of an art trove that could fetch more than $100 million at Christie’s in New York next month.
The 40-lot consignment comes from the estate of the late Pennsylvania philanthropist and art patron David Pincus, who died last December. Thirteen pieces will highlight Christie’s postwar and contemporary art evening sale on May 8; the rest will be offered during the day sale on May 9.
Pincus, the former chairman of apparel manufacturer Pincus Brothers-Maxwell, and his wife, Gerry, began collecting soon after getting married in 1959. They bought Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Anselm Kiefer, Nan Goldin and Jeff Wall.
“They were very engaged, very active,” said Laura Paulson, Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department’s international director, who has known the couple for more than 25 years. “The artists were very connected to them because of their great personality and the love of the art.”
One of the couple’s major early acquisitions was an 8-by-7-foot Rothko, “Orange, Red, Yellow” (1961), which they bought from the Marlborough gallery. Expected to bring $35 million to $45 million at Christie’s, the painting hung for many years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, loaned by Pincus, a former museum trustee.
“They looked long and hard for the right Rothko,” said Paulson. “In those days you had a choice and they probably chose the best one. It has incredible power.”
Another highlight is Pollock’s “No. 28” (1951), estimated to bring $20 million to $30 million. The work was included in the artist’s 1967 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Newman’s 1952 “Onement V,” purchased from the artist’s widow, Annalee Newman, has a $10 million to $15 million estimate. The canvas, featuring his signature “zip,” had also been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Pincus group includes six works by Willem de Kooning, including four sculptures and two paintings. “Untitled V” (1983), estimated at $4 million to $6 million, was recently included in the artist’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The proceeds from the sale of three sculptures and “Untitled V” will benefit the Pincus Family Foundation.
The Pincuses became friends with German artist Kiefer, whose 1990 “Lilith’s Tochter,” a 12-by-9-foot canvas featuring four small dresses and two airplanes, is expected to bring $800,000 to $1.2 million.
‘Dead Troops Talk’
Jeff Wall’s 1986 “Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986)” could set an auction record for the Canadian artist; it has an estimated sale range of $1.5 million to $2 million.
A board member of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, Pincus was known for his humanitarian work. He traveled to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Sudan, Bosnia and Croatia. He brought a Bosnian Muslim family of five to the U.S.
He always carried plastic figures of Snoopy, the comic-strip beagle, as a way of breaking down barriers, Paulson said.
“You’d meet him, and the next thing there was something in your hand,” she said. “It was a little Snoopy.”